From the opening faceoff, it was never in doubt. In possibly its biggest weekend of the season, Holy Cross passed the test with flying colors, not only capturing four points in the standings, but drubbing AIC 8-2 at the Hart Center on the back end of a home-and-home series.
“This was a great weekend for us,” said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl, whose team had lost 12 of its last 14 outings prior to this weekend. “We were extremely determined against Brown and Merrimack, but the losses left us deflated. Tonight, we were able to get the goals. Last night, going into the third period down 3-2, we came out with a win. The biggest difference has been that we have been able to score.”
The Crusaders saw the reunion of captain Brandon Doria and Greg Kealey. The two have played on the same line for the past three years. With the addition of speedy forward Tyler McGregor, the three combined for 17 points on the night, including scoring the team’s first three goals.
“This was our second time playing together (this season),” noted Doria, who had one goal and three assists. “The more we play together, the more chemistry is going to develop. Adding Tyler gives us a lot of speed.”
This weekend’s victories snapped the Crusaders out of a six game losing streak and pushed them ahead of an idle Army squad that dealt them two losses last weekend.
“This was our weekend and we were trying to really turn it around,” said Kealey. “We came out with two big wins, and we’re going to try and rattle off 10 more and play like we did at the start of the season.”
Kealey got the Crusaders off on the right foot, tallying just 3:26 into the contest. It was his first of three goals on the night to complement four assists. Doria’s between the leg, drop pass rolled into AIC goaltender Chad Davis. Kealey corralled the rebound and banged it home.
“I hadn’t scored in a while,” said Kealey. “Last night we got the first monkey off our back with the win. Tonight I got the second one off by scoring and to have it be three goals was that much better.”
The line connected once again with 56 seconds left in the first on a tic-tac-toe play down low that left Doria wide open on the doorstep, to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
“The last few nights, we haven’t been scoring,” said Doria. “In the locker room, we talked about bearing down, and tonight it paid off for us.”
Holy Cross healed its struggling penalty kill in the second by killing off a double minor charged to sophomore Tony Coskren. The Crusaders later capitalized on a five-minute major charged to Nick Dancey for elbowing Doria with 5:37 to play. Holy Cross struck twice in the five-minute span to open a 5-0 lead going into the third period on goals by Tim Coskren and Kealey once again.
The Purple would go up by as many as seven when the Doria line struck again just 37 seconds into the third. Kealey completed the hat trick when he took a pass from Doria in the slot and deked around replacement goaltender Jerred Condon.
“Greg is just a heart-and-soul kid,” said Pearl. “He’s been playing that way all season. With all of the emotion the team has been through, he has stayed with us through it all. He was able to bury his chances tonight.”
Todd O’Neil got AIC on the board with 10:34 to play, sniping a shot past the glove side of HC goaltender Tony Quesada. Quesada finished with 24 saves on the night.
Guillaume Caron cut the Holy Cross lead to 7-2 with 4:37 left to play. Caron walked between the faceoff circles and roofed a wrister over the glove of freshman goaltender Ben Conway, who entered the game with 6:08 to play for Quesada.
Andrew McKay rounded out the scoring for the Crusaders with four seconds to play on a blast from the right circle. McKay’s goal was his third on the weekend.
The Holy Cross effort improved its record to 12-14-0 overall and 10-8-0 in the MAAC. AIC fell to 6-17-2 and 5-13-1 in the MAAC.